What to do with this blog thing… Jill, a very busy person, spent time and effort getting this blog set up. It’s clearly important to her. And here we are, weeks and months after the blog’s birthday, and not one of us has yet to post anything to the blog. Post. That’s the right word, right? You see, I’m a pre-geezer, much more so than my older brother Skip, who’s still very active with stuff (work; acting; jogging with his cocker up and down the canyons of So Cal). That stuff disqualifies him as pre-geezer. I, though, meet qualifications, proudly. Including feeling some anxiety, trepidation and confusion about this blog thing. Classic pre-geezer reaction; you can look it up in the manual.
Does anyone remember the movie Moonstruck? What a beautiful little movie, squarely in the tradition of Shakespeare comedy or Da Ponte/Mozart. Much in that movie to think back upon fondly, smiling, but what I frequently think back to is a scene near the end, three generations of an Italian-American family and friends gathered around a breakfast table, people coming and going, actions coming and going, life coming and coming and coming. Then suddenly, in the midst and from the midst, comes the voice, up till then silent, from a person up till then still, the voice of the family patriarch, an old man who had seen much of life. What does that voice say? With some anxiety and trepidation, the old man says: “I’m confused!”
Pops, I too am confused. Almost all the time and by so many different things. But right now, right here, the focus of my confusion is this blog thing. What am I to do?
The obvious answer: write something and post it (right word, right? someone please tell me). Jill worked hard on this thing and wants me to write and post. I owe it to her, don’t I? Like she says, Mom always wanted me to write. If I had ever written, I expect Mom would have disliked what I had written, and wondered why I hadn’t written something which could bring in a buck or two, but there I go pussy-footing around the fact that she, and many, many others in line behind her, including Jill, including Skip, including my wife (rhymes with life) and partner Dita, have wanted me to write. And I never have. In part, Jill created this blog to try to back me into that corner and force me, long last, to write. Something. Anything.
Ok, I’m cornered. So here we go…
I’ll tell a story I was told by Mom, about which I have no personal recollection but which, from the moment she told it to me, made sense to me, and about me. It happened when I was three years old. We lived in an old farmhouse built by a Civil War general, Woods was his name. He built the place after the war, his place of peace after that horrible time of war. The city of Dayton over the years grew out and around this farmhouse, turning it into a city house. It was a nice old house to grow up in, big rooms, a big covered porch to play on in bad weather (the picture of us as little redcoats was taken with us on the steps of that porch), big yard to play in in, big trees to clamber up. One tree we called the NCR tree because from the top of the tree we could see the NCR building in downtown Dayton. Our grandma, Mom’s mom, lived out in the country but close enough for visits back and forth. Grandma was a perpetual talker, didn’t even need someone to talk to or with. For her, to be was to talk. I talk therefore I am. Which is, no doubt, why I puzzled her, because I didn’t (and don’t) talk much. One day during one of Grandma’s visits she couldn’t stand it any longer. She turned to Mom and said, “There’s something wrong with that boy. Three years old and he’s still not talking.” She told Mom to get me some help. Mom’s reply, which I’m sure left Grandma unconvinced, was “Oh, he can talk just fine, when he has something to say.”
So there you have it. And, yes, I write just fine too, when I have something to say, which isn’t often (did I mention I’m often confused?). But now I’m backed into a corner and have little choice but to write, something, anything. Someone please wish me some luck. I need to find some things to say which haven’t already been said well by others.
Post-script (no pun intended but pun accepted):
I’ve lived sixty-three years without ever having seen the word ‘geezer’ written out, so thought I ought to double-check, make sure I spelled it correctly. I typed it into the magic box on my online etymology dictionary and the dictionary told me that, one, I did indeed spell it correctly, and two, the word is a circa 1885 variant of an old Cockney word ‘guiser’, “ ‘masquerader, mummer, one who goes from house to house, whimsically disguised, and making diversion with songs and antics, usually at Christmas,’ ” from the late 15th Century. And ‘mummer’? “ ‘One who performs in a mumming, actor in a dumb show,’ early 15c., probably a fusion of Middle French momeur ‘mummer’ (from Old French momer ‘mask oneself,’ from momon ‘mask’) and Middle English mommen ‘to mutter, be silent,’ related to mum.” (www.etymonline.com)
Words tell us so much, when we take time to listen. I just called myself a pre-geezer, then told a story about my life-long mummery. Those words had waited ages for me to call upon them. Or for them to call upon me. How does that happen?
The hurdy-gurdy man at the end of Schubert’s Winterreise is an example of one of those guisers. I have lately read and re-read Ian Bostridge’s wonderful book Winter Journey, a singer’s meditation on Schubert’s Winterreise.
I have stood where Franz Schubert was born, and I have stood where he died. I’m not sure whether that’s made me better, or different. I hope it has.